Garry Monk took the blame for fielding a weakened team and admitted his tactics had “backfired” after Leeds United were beaten by non-league opposition for only the second time in their history.
A 1-0 defeat at Gander Green Lane dumped Leeds out of the FA Cup’s fourth round as Monk paid for a line-up showing 10 changes and debuts for 20-year-olds Paul McKay and Billy Whitehouse.
Monk followed a trend set in United’s run to the League Cup quarter-finals earlier this season by resting most of the players who have carried the club into a Championship play-off position but a young side were deservedly beaten by non-league Sutton, a club 83 places below Leeds in the English pyramid and the lowest-ranked team remaining in the FA Cup.
A penalty from Sutton captain Jamie Collins settled the tie early in the second half following a foul by Lewie Coyle on Roarie Deacon and Leeds struggled to create any chances as they chased an equaliser on an artificial pitch.
The loss is United’s first to non-league opponents since their second-round defeat to Histon in 2008, an upset against a team who were also playing at National League level at the time.
The final whistle prompted a pitch invasion at Gander Green Lane as part-time Sutton celebrated a result worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, and Monk said: “It’s a frustrating result. It’s a frustrating performance but it’s my responsibility. I’m the one who selects the team.
“I made a lot of changes but it didn’t work and it backfired. I take full responsibility.
“When you make that many changes, sometimes it doesn’t help with how cohesive you are. Okay, we’ve done that in the cups and reached a quarter-final and we’ve done well in league games when we’ve had to make changes too but maybe today was one step too far or one change too many.
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“Everything didn’t go right. That’s what led to the defeat and a poor performance. I’m the one who made all those changes so it’s for me to take it on the chin and make sure the players dust themselves down. We didn’t want to see this happen but it has.
“I don’t like losing any game. It doesn’t matter which game it is. I’m not a good loser and we’re trying to create a winning mentality so when we lose we take it hard.”
Monk’s changes were made against the backdrop of two away fixtures in the Championship this week, at Blackburn Rovers on Wednesday night and at Huddersfield Town on Sunday.
United’s head coach has guided his side to fourth in the Championship table in his first season in charge, making promotion to the Premier League a major priority, and Monk said: “We’ve got a game in three days time. I have to get the balance right in making sure there’s freshness and energy. We’ve got a lot of games coming up in February.”
Leeds are into the last 48 hours of the January transfer window and, having sold midfielder Alex Mowatt to Barnsley for a fee in excess of £500,000 on Friday, are yet to make any new signings.
Monk, who has targeted West Ham United striker Ashley Fletcher and Norwich City winger Sergi Canos, admitted he was crossing his fingers for recruits before tomorrow’s 11pm deadline, saying: “I hope so. It’s very clear. I’ve said it all along we need these players but maybe the club are best to answer when and where that’s going to happen.”
Asked if the loss at Sutton demonstrated the need for more resources, Monk said: “For sure but I’ve said this before today’s game. I’ve been saying it for a while now. We need more players and that doesn’t change.”
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